Despite all the dangers a cyclist may encounter in traffic, it is still healthier by far to abandon the car in favour of cycling. This is the conclusion drawn by IRAS (Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences) of Universiteit Utrecht and Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (PBL).
The health of individual cyclists increases with a decrease in driving. The advantages of cycling have been compared with the health risks, such as ingesting fine dust particles and traffic accidents. Jeroen de Hartog and Gerard Hoek, responsible for the study at IRAS, estimate the health advantages far outweigh the risks.
This estimate was drawn up by calculating what the health effects would be of substituting short car trips by cycling. On the basis of previous studies into physical activity it has been calculated that the gain in life expectancy is 3 to 14 months, whereas potentially 1 to 40 days were lost due to exposure to fine dust particles and 5 to 9 days were lost due to fatal traffic accidents. Since cyclists have to put in a physical effort, they inhale twice the amount of air as car drivers and therefore more hazardous substances as well. On the other hand cyclists may more easily choose a cleaner route than drivers. In addition cyclists are more often involved in fatal traffic accidents than drivers.
Jeroen de Hartog: “Emphasising the need to walk or cycle for some distance every day ensures a better physical condition for people. Nevertheless it is necessary to limit the risks to cyclists in traffic as much as possible." “The advantages for society are greater than for individual cyclists. Substituting short car trips by cycling lowers emissions of harmful substances in traffic, thereby causing a reduction in air pollution for others”, according to Gerard Hoek. “Moreover, cars often cause fatal accidents to cyclists and pedestrians.”
Cycling in the city: Health benefits outweigh accident risks
Do the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks? YES!